ShareThis Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size

Tuskegee receives $4M diversity-focused NSF materials research grant

August 07, 2018

Joshua Chamot, National Science Foundation, Office of Legislative and Public Affairs​
Michael Tullier, APR, Tuskegee University, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Tuskegee University is one of eight recipients of the National Science Foundation’s newest Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) grants. The collective outcomes of these grants will foster cutting-edge research while increasing diversity within the materials science field.

The six-year, $3.9 million grant from NSF’s Division of Materials Research is part of its efforts to expand collaborations between minority-serving institutions and leading research facilities across the U.S. Tuskegee’s grant will be administered by Dr. Vijaya Rangari, a professor of materials science, and include colleagues in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Material Research Science and Engineering Center.

Through this project, the two universities will establish a world-class collaborative research program potentially leading to a new class of nanocomposite materials combining polymers with multiferroic nanomaterials. The applications for these new multiferroic polymer nanocomposites would include novel multifunctional devices, such as data storage, spin valves, spintronics, memories, sensors, and microelectronic devices.

Rangari in lab with students
Rangari and student researchers in his materials science lab

“We continue to see advances like multiferroic polymer nanocomposites in the materials science sector that will lead to faster computing capabilities, more-stable and higher-capacity computer storage, and other devices and sensing technologies,” Rangari said. “Because these new materials would have universal applications in any electronic device, their impact would span the computing, communications and biomedical industries — and everything in between.”

The PREM partnerships also will provide pathways for recruit, retain and graduate underrepresented minorities in materials research professions across the U.S. It encourages a diverse cohort of young scientists and engineers to stay in materials research through graduation and move on to pursue higher education and rewarding careers in the field.

“Through this grant, our graduates will help bring much-needed diversity to the nation's advanced technology workforce,” Rangari noted. “We also anticipate, through broadening our students’ knowledge and research experience, that they will become the future scientists who design and manufacture the next generation of multiferroic composite materials and applications.”

For Tuskegee and its collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this PREM grant also will lead to additional summer undergraduate research programs for its students; cross-institutional courses, workshops and training sessions; and expanded K-12 student/teacher training.

Since its launch in 2004, PREM has successfully diversified research faculty while improving the likelihood that participating students will go on to complete a doctorate in materials research. The initiative has yielded a wide range of results with applications from potential cancer treatments to novel solar cells. Since its inception, PREM has trained 109 postdocs and graduated 427 graduate students and 793 undergraduate students — most from underrepresented minority groups.

“The United States benefits from greater innovation and a more diverse materials workforce — one that will drive cutting-edge innovations in the decades to come,” said Linda Sapochak, director of NSF’s Division of Materials Research. “Now in its second decade, PREM brings innovative research teams that may lack the resources of larger institutions into fully reciprocal collaborations with some of NSF’s leading materials research facilities.”

The Tuskegee research team also includes Dr. Shaik Jeelani, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School; Dr. Naga Korivi, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering; and Dr. Maria Calhoun, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Department of Materials Science and Engineering faculty include Dr. Mahesh Hosur, professor and department head; Dr. Shik Zainuddin, associate professor; and Dr. Tcherbi-Narteh Alfred, assistant professor.

Research partners from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln include Dr. Jeffrey Shield, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering; and Dr. Rebecca Y. Lai, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry. Representing the Department of Physics and Astronomy are Dr. Evgeny Y. Tsymbal, professor and principal investigator of the Material Research Science and Engineering Center; Dr. Stephen Ducharme, professor; and Dr. Peter A. Dowben, professor.

For more information about NSF’s Partnership for Research and Education in Materials, visit

© 2018, Tuskegee University